Somalia suspends sports official over slow sprinter

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The Dong’an Lake Sports Park Stadium in Chengdu was witness to the sporting controversy

Somalia has suspended a sports official for nepotism after a novice sprinter was allowed to compete in an international sports competition.

Nasra Abubakar Ali took almost twice as long as the winner to finish the 100m at the World University Games in China.

An investigation by the Somali Ministry of Youth and Sport revealed she is “not a sports person, nor a runner”.

The chairwoman of the Somali Athletics Federation has been accused of abusing her power and defaming Somalia.

Khadijo Aden Dahir was stood down following a meeting between the country’s sport’s ministry and its National Olympic Committee.

Their preliminary investigation also found that a sports body known as the Somali University Sports Association does not exist.

The ministry said it will pursue legal action against both the chairman of the Athletics Federation of Somalia and others responsible for the “falsification” of the sports group.

It did not elaborate on what the connection between Ms Dahir and Ms Ali is.

In a video of the event, the athlete is soon left out of shot and eventually completes the race with a jovial skip.

The novice athlete completed the race in 21.81 seconds – more than 10 seconds behind the eventual winner.

Sports Minister Mohamed Barre Mohamud described the incident as an embarrassment.

“What happened today was not representation of the Somali people… we apologise to the Somali people,” he said.

The fact that she reportedly had no previous experience of competing has prompted some Somalis to wonder why she was ever selected.

“It’s disheartening to witness such an incompetent government. How could they select an untrained girl to represent Somalia in running?” wrote one social media user, Elham Garaad. “It’s truly shocking and reflects poorly on our country internationally.”

In a press release posted to its Facebook page, the Association of Somali Universities said it had not appointed any athlete to compete in the event.

The Somali Athletics Federation has reportedly agreed to launch an investigation into how Ms Abubakar Ali was selected.

The incident is not the first time Somalia has sparked controversy with its choice of athletes at international athletics events.

In 2016, Maryan Nuh Muse ran a sluggish time of 1.10.14 in the 400m at the Rio Olympics. The average time for the event is about 48 seconds.

However, many praised the runner for seeking to take part in the race and for defying the tough conditions faced by Somali women seeking to take part in high-level sport.

At the 2012 Olympics in London, Zamzam Mohamed Farah clocked a time of 1:20:48 – some 30 seconds behind the winner.

The athlete was reportedly subjected to death threats throughout the games from some in Somalia who believed women should not participate in sport.

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